Having moved around quite a bit, I have had interactions with various Crisis Teams in different areas; my experiences with whom have been very different – from excellent, to downright negligent.
I’m not going to name the areas in this piece, I will simply refer to them as Area A, Area B, and Area C.
During my time living in Area A, I had numerous interactions with the Crisis Team. This was because my meltdowns tended to happen outside of office hours, so I couldn’t get in touch with my CPN. Unfortunately, Area A had implemented a new system regarding access to the Crisis Team. They had introduced a sort of “middle-man” called the Access Team, to whom you would speak first. They would then deem whether or not it was ‘necessary’ for you to speak to the Crisis Team. Nine times out of ten, they would decide it was not.
On a particular occasion, I had self-harmed badly, and desperately needed a coaching call from the Crisis Team, so I rang the number. I finally got through to the Access Team (after a long wait) and explained my situation. The man on the phone repeatedly told me I could not speak to the Crisis Team, despite my pleas. I told him that I had self-harmed and needed help to stop before it got out of hand, and he patronisingly threatened to call the police on me. I hung up.
Unfortunately, this experience was not uncommon in Area A, and it wasn’t just me either; it had happened to others that I met in group therapy.
When I next saw my CPN, she encouraged me to submit a complaint against the Access Team worker, but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to pursue it. Instead, based on his notes of the call (which my CPN had read), she submitted a complaint on my behalf for his behaviour that night. I never heard back about it, but I appreciated that she took me seriously. However, the damage was done, and I never called their Crisis Team again, instead, suffering alone.
In Area B, I had mixed experiences. When I was admitted to hospital following an intentional overdose, I was visited by two ladies from the Crisis Team who were absolutely lovely and spent time really listening to what I had to say. They gave me the phone number for the Crisis Team and told me I could call any time, 24/7.
Sadly, this is where the system broke down.
On a night when I was particularly struggling, I phoned the Crisis Team. I got through to a man with an extremely thick accent, and I was struggling to understand him. He was apparently in a hurry to get me off the phone because he simply told me to “Hang in there” and promptly ended the call. Needless to say, his advice did not help.
At long last, I arrived in Area C and was referred to the Crisis Team by my GP. Two members of the team came to my house to complete an assessment. They were patient, friendly, and put me at as much ease as could be expected during my crisis. After the assessment, they went away and discussed my case with the wider team. One of the ladies returned the next day to give me some treatment options: I was offered a place at the Crisis House, or I could be seen by the Home Treatment Team, who would visit me at home every day. I opted for the Home Treatment Team I and was promptly referred to them. Someone came out to my house to see me every day, including delivering my meds straight to my house, and after a few visits, they encouraged me to meet with an Engagement Worker, who would try to get me out of the house for a bit. The Engagement Worker saw me every other day, and the Crisis Team kept in touch right up to when I was assigned a CPN. I have nothing but positive things to say about this Crisis Team; they were professional, kind, and supportive of me through the worst crisis of my life.
As you can see, it really is a postcode lottery when it comes to the quality of service of a Crisis Team. I understand that they are overworked, underpaid, and under a huge amount of pressure, but when someone’s life is at stake, half-arsing the job really doesn’t cut it.
Have you had any experiences with a Crisis Team? Tell me about it in the comments.
Note: This piece was originally a guest post on Psych Central: Bipolar Journey.
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